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A Pigeon and a Boy: A Novel Paperback – January 6, 2009

4.4 out of 5 stars 92 customer reviews

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Editorial Reviews

From Publishers Weekly

Starred Review. In this stunning tale, Shalev masterfully interweaves two remarkable personal stories. Yair Mendelsohn, a middle-aged Israeli tour guide favored with bird watchers, learns that one of his new American clients fought in the Palmach, a clandestine military force in Israel's 1948 war of independence. The American recounts a day when a homing pigeon handler, nicknamed the Baby for his childlike features, was killed in that war and, in his final moments, sent off one last pigeon. Yair is familiar with the American's story and listens with wistfulness. As Yair slowly tells of his present and his past, Shalev patiently builds tension around the Baby's final dispatch, giving vivid detail on homing pigeons and conveying the unique relationship between the birds and their keepers—which echoes the touching care with which the Baby and his true love, the Girl, treat one another. The dark, stocky Yair, whose marriage is threatened by his burgeoning relationship with childhood friend Tirzah, makes a sympathetic protagonist. This gem of a story about the power of love, which won Israel's Brenner Prize, brims with luminous originality. (Oct.)
Copyright © Reed Business Information, a division of Reed Elsevier Inc. All rights reserved. --This text refers to an out of print or unavailable edition of this title.

From Bookmarks Magazine

Meir Shalev is one of Israel’s most celebrated novelists. Although less well known in the United States, the critically acclaimed A Pigeon and a Boy, which won Israel’s prestigious Brenner Prize, should introduce Shalev to a much wider audience. Intertwining two love stories with Israel’s fight for independence, the novel offers a compelling portrait of Israel’s period before statehood to the present day. With homing pigeons as a recurring motif, Shalev explores themes of home, memory, and survival—for the birds, a people, and a nation. Despite critics’ overall praise, some faulted the characterizations of Baby and Yair and the obvious connections between the two tales; The Miami Herald noted the absence of any mention of the Palestinians’ Nakba, or "Catastrophe." Few voices, however, capture Israel’s complexities as gracefully as Shalev’s.
Copyright © 2004 Phillips & Nelson Media, Inc. --This text refers to an out of print or unavailable edition of this title.
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Product Details

  • Paperback: 320 pages
  • Publisher: Schocken; Reprint edition (January 6, 2009)
  • Language: English
  • ISBN-10: 0805212140
  • ISBN-13: 978-0805212143
  • Product Dimensions: 5.2 x 0.9 x 8 inches
  • Shipping Weight: 12 ounces (View shipping rates and policies)
  • Average Customer Review: 4.4 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (92 customer reviews)
  • Amazon Best Sellers Rank: #239,826 in Books (See Top 100 in Books)

Customer Reviews

Top Customer Reviews

By Peggy Shapiro on January 25, 2008
Format: Hardcover
WHAT CHAGALL IS TO PAINT, SHALEV IS TO WORDS

The feeling I had when reading a Pigeon and a Boy by Meir Shalev that I had entered the world of a Chagall painting. In fact, what Chagall is to paint, Shalev is to words.

First they both create intense, detail-packed scenes.
Marc Chagall wastes no space as every square inch of his canvas is filled with vibrant and powerful colors and detail. A Marc Chagall painting is a feast for the eyes. These details makes the extraordinary events more plausible. Shalev's rich sensory details allow the reader not only to see, but to touch, taste and hear and fully enter the scene. The story of one of the main characters, The Baby, starts:
That day began as many other's in the baby's life, with his eyes opening as always before those of the other children. With his skin feeling the coolness and warmth of the air....With his ears listening to the male pigeons squabbling on the roof, their nails scraping the drainpipes, the hands of the woman in charge of the kibbutz children's house toiling in the small kitchen. With his nose smelling that the porridge is already cooking there, the margarine softening, the jam reddening in little dishes."

For Shalev memory is a close up lens of details: the young woman who's knees never stopped jiggling, the taste of pickles, his mother's wide brimmed yellow hat, the doctor dipping cookie after cookie into lemon and tea, his brother skipping from rock to rock while he plodded along, the smell of hot dust, the blue handkerchief that is used for tears of joy and loss. Shalev writes:
There are some people whose sensory organs capture reality for them. But with me, my sensory organs mediate between reality and memory, and not every organ in its realm.
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Format: Hardcover Verified Purchase
This is the kind of book you want to read slowly, to savour every word, and long for it not to finish. Meir Shalev's beautifully crafted book, with its flowing, evocative language, masterfully translated by Evan Fallenberg, consists of two ingeniously interwoven tales of people a generation apart, linked by places and events. One is a first person narrative of an adult tour-guide yearning for affection and a place he can consider 'home', and the other a touching story of the love between two teenagers, whose main channel of communication is through the homing-pigeons they send back and forth for the Hagana, the underground movement struggling against British rule in pre-State Israel. Through the intertwined tales, artfully tied up in the final denouement, the reader subtly gains insight into the handling of homing-pigeons and the tense days leading up to the War of Independence. The slight suspension of credibility called for here and there in the book only serve to enrich the sensitive flow of a wonderful story. Not to be missed!
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Format: Hardcover
A masterpiece of two woven stories, the love story between two pigeon handlers in the period prior to Israel's War of Independence framed and intersected by that of a tour guide specializing in bird watching who learns the details of the tale from one of his guests.

In this unlikely subject, the reader is treated to learning the habits and handling of homing pigeons that served as reliable means of communication during the British Mandate of the land of Israel until 1948.

It is hard to do this story justice with a synopsis or a review. The power of the novel is in the crafting of the tale as it unfolds, with the main characters--although beautifully detailed--remaining nameless but for their functions as pigeon handlers. Not so the tour guide, whose life is unraveling before it is put together again with a new love.

A great book selection for a book group, as it covers several interesting issues to discuss.

Talia Carner, author,
Puppet Child and China Doll
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All novels about Israel fascinate me. This one intrigued me because of the rhythm of each sentence, and therefore, kudos to the translator. The parallel stories intertwine and the narrative is not lost because of it, as in so many other novels using flashback technique. The ending was so poetic, so indicative of the lengths to which one must go to survive in a land that has a precarious topography, the joy of discovering love and unexpected friendship, the land of women alongside the men/boys they admire, the willingness to share and provide support - these stimulated my mind. Every character stood out for me, and I would love to divulge the ending, but that would spoil it for a reader. This book has a mystique that resonates. Hardship and love, and not a 'pat' love story at all - uniquely told, immersing the reader in every page, and lingering afterward.
I suppose you'd say I enjoyed this tale, where the battle is the background, the war between palestine and israel is not the centerpoint, and the reader is not embroiled in the brutality. It is the people who leap from the page.
I am reminded of Masha Hamilton's novels about the Middle East and her ability to evoke the essence of the land and the people, wshether Israeli or Arab.
A Pigeon and a Boy: A Novel
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